Earlier this week, PBS Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch made headline news when Ancestry.com determined the actor was related to author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who created the Sherlock Holmes character. Cumberbatch is listed on Ancestry.com’s Dowling family genealogy page that shows the connection. The Dowling family tree is so extensive it has its own featured genealogy page that is divided into subcategories as it connects numerous celebrities, presidents, authors, writers, and even kings. Benedict Cumberbatch is also related to Alan Turing, whom he played in the Oscar-nominated performance in The Imitation Game, as Ancestry.com reported. What might be equally as interesting as Benedict Cumberbatch’s familiar connection to many of the characters he’s portrayed is the impact the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes character has had on criminal investigation and forensic science. You may watch the full documentary of How Sherlock Changed the World here to fully grasp just how revolutionary Sherlock Holmes’ character truly was.
As Benedict Cumberbatch delights fans worldwide with his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, countless law enforcement officials and scientists utilize techniques that first began with the fictional character. The show How Sherlock Changed the World provides a fascinating look at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life and the inspiration that led him to develop the character, Sherlock Holmes. Check out the project “Discovering Arthur Conan Doyle” by Stanford University for an in-depth look at the man as well as the character he created.
It might be shocking for some to learn just how pitiful the field of criminal investigation and forensic science was before Sherlock Holmes hit the scene. The favorite detective by millions worldwide was first to use a microscope at a crime scene and use logic to solve crimes. At the height of the serial killer Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes demonstrated that a real sleuth uses many tools to separate suspects from killers. In How Sherlock Changed the World, we see that something routinely used in crime scene investigations like measuring a shoe print, determining ballistics from a gun, gathering blood evidence, or even dusting for fingerprints were not standard procedures during Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s day. It was only when the fictional Sherlock Holmes detective would utilize his skills that reality met the fictional world and criminal investigators realized that what worked for Sherlock Holmes would work at a crime scene.
Benedict Cumberbatch brings Sherlock Holmes into the modern era and reveals the detective’s brilliant mind that can not only analyze a crime scene in record time, but also utilizes intense logic and strategy to scrutinize patterns in every bit of life’s details. Nothing escapes Sherlock’s notice and his mind works at a level unbeknownst to the average citizen or crime fighter. When watching Sherlock Holmes depicted on screen, it becomes apparent how far ahead of his time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was and how invaluable his contributions to modern-day science and crime truly is.
One area where Benedict Cumberbatch excels with his Sherlock Holmes portrayal is in criminal profiling. In addition to observing a scene and using logic to determine and categorize evidence, Sherlock Holmes is, and always has been, a master criminal profiler. Part of Holmes’ skills involves classifying and categorizing people in a way that FBI criminal profilers could only dream of doing. Still, while shows like PBS Sherlock use scripts for each case, criminal profilers today can still learn from the standard set by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle over a century ago.
If you’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes book and are a fan of the PBS series Sherlock, you might enjoy reading one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels. They have passed into the public domain and are widely available in print, PDF, and other formats suitable for Kindle or other eReaders. You can find many written works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, including Sherlock Holmes, at Project Gutenberg.
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